College basketball is back and so are the high expectations placed on several Big Ten Basketball teams headed into the 2023-2024 season. The conference saw 8 bids for last season’s NCAA tournament, the lowest total since the lost Covid tournament. But this go around appears to be different, with realistically 10 teams fighting for their shot to get a ticket to the dance and two teams at the top with legitimate chances at earning a #1 seed.
It’s also a potential rebound year for several teams in the middle of this loaded pack of potential tournament teams. Both Ohio State and Michigan look to get back on track after finishing in the bottom half of the conference last season. In a conference known for beating each other out throughout Big Ten play, will the top two teams be brought down to 3-14’s level, or will the cream rise up to the top?
14. Minnesota Golden Gophers
It’s year three for Ben Johnson and a crucial campaign for the first-stint head coach to show any semblance of improvement. The Golden Gophers are 22-39 since he took the job, and the journey has been harsher than even the record suggests.
Johnson’s squad lost his second and third leading scorers, Jamison Battle and Ta’Lon Cooper, to the transfer portal but was able to hold onto lead offensive weapon Dawson Garcia for his junior campaign. Garcia is a big with a bit of range to his game, taking most of his shots in the midrange and knocking down a 3-pointer per game at a 34% hit rate.
For the Golden Gophers to take a true step forward, Garcia will have to develop even beyond his solid sophomore campaign and find help in transfers Elijah Hawkins (Howard) and Mike Mitchell (Pepperdine). Both have the offensive repertoire and lethal three-point shooting to help Garcia find space to operate. And any step in the right direction is a win for a school that hasn’t had a winning record since 2019.